Mine Mill Local 598/CAW members voted 96 per cent in favour of going on strike follwing meetings held by their union Jan. 16.
The union's collective agreement with Xstrata Nickel expires at midnight Jan. 31.
Local 598 president Richard Paquin said the strong strike mandate is good news because it shows union members have confidence in their bargaining committee.
“If the company knows that we've got the members behind us, it sometimes helps quite a bit in getting what we're looking for for our members, which is basically a fair, reasonable contract with some gains.”
He said the union could, technically, go on strike as of midnight Jan. 31, and the company could also lock out workers out at that time.
However, in 2010, during the last set of negotiations, a contract was reached in the early morning hours of Feb. 1, a few hours after the last contract expired.
In that case, the union didn't set up picket lines because they knew they were close to a deal, Paquin said.
Local 598 went on strike twice in the early 2000s — six and a half months in 2000 and three weeks in 2004 — when the company was still owned by Falconbridge.
However, since Xstrata bought out Falconbridge in 2006, Local 598 has negotiated two contracts in a row without going on strike.
Paquin said his members aren't anxious about a possible labour dispute because of the union's recent success.
“Our intent is also to be successful with this one,” he said. “Like any other bargaining, you never know which way it could turn, but we're still confident.”
Paquin wouldn't reveal the specific details of the negotiations, but said the two sides are still working on contract language, and haven't yet moved on to monetary issues.
When asked if there's still time to strike a deal, Paquin said the union is “able and willing” to do so.
“It all depends on the employer, but they indicated to us they're also able and willing,” he said. “So hopefully we can continue talking as we are now and eventually get to a tentative agreement.”